Anyone who has ever gone grocery shopping on an empty stomach knows that their dinner recipe is going to spell disaster. And by disaster, we mean unhealthy.
Shopping for food when you’re hungry will lead you down aisles of temptation, have you frantically filling your trolly with treats and feeling guilty about it later. And it’s not just going to the supermarket when you’re hungry that will result in this behaviour. It’s shopping frequently. When was the last time you went to the grocery store with the intent to buy enough food to last you a week? “That’s absurd!” you might be thinking, “how will I know what I want to eat in two days time?!” It’s all about planning your meals. And, most importantly, sticking to that plan. Going to the grocery shops only once a week will limit the desire to pick up that pack of double coated TimTams that’s on special when you “just duck in for some milk.” It’ll lead to a healthier, balanced diet.
But many people don’t have the time to cook meals from scratch with fresh ingredients every evening when they come home from work. Even if they already have it all sitting waiting in their fridge. This is where meal prep comes in. It’s a level up from meal planning. Preparing your lunches, snacks and dinners in advance, on days when you haven’t got a million things to do, will give you more time during the week to exercise after work or spend time with the kids after school. It’s healthier, it saves times, and it’s less costly (buying in bulk is always cheaper!), too. So let’s have a look at how you can dominate meal prep like a boss.
Meal Prep 101: what you need
A chest freezer
Firstly, you’ll need to have a decent amount of freezer space in your home. Only have a small freezer on top of your fridge? Not to worry! You can rent a chest freezer for a competitive price through Macrae Rentals. It’ll give you tonnes more space for meal storage.
Secondly, you’ll need at least a dozen sturdy, microwave and freezer safe containers for storing your scrumptious meals in. This should be enough for one person’s meal prep for one week (including lunches and dinners, with one ‘free’ day to eat as you please). Try and get containers of the same shape and size, as it’ll make stacking them in the freezer a breeze. However, if you intend on pre-preparing snacks such as dried fruit and nut mixes or fruit salad, you may want a few smaller containers as well.
Reusable labels are nifty little things that will make your life much easier! Adhere these to your containers and write on them with chalk pens to identify what each of your meals are at-a-glance. Once you’ve gobbled up all the food in a container, give it a good scrub, and the chalk pen should come right off – ready to be used again!
A meal planner
The best part about meal planning is getting to break out the coloured pens and go to town on your new stationery! We particularly love these meal planners by Kikki K that stick to your fridge with magnets. If you’re trying to follow a diet, or balance your meals according to your training regime, a meal planner is a great way to map out what you’re eating when and keep track of your nutritional intake. It also helps you assess how much of a meal you need to prepare ahead of time.
A day off
So you obviously need time to make your meals in bulk. Try putting aside half a day at the start of the week (Sundays work best for many) to get your cooking or portioning done. You don’t have to cook EVERYTHING ahead of time. If you’re planning on eating steamed veg with rissoles one or more nights, cut the veg and place in a container, but leave cooking it until the evening you’re going to eat it. This will keep it fresh and crunchy! Likewise, make the rissoles (homemade rissoles are delicious!) but keep them stored uncooked. Whacking something in a pan or on to be steamed takes little time if it’s all ready to go. It’s the big meals like curries, stews and casseroles that you want to cook on your days off and pop in the fridge or freezer to be consumed later in the week. And don’t forget that if you’re going to whip up smoothies or make a big batch of stock, you can freeze these in ice cube trays for later on.
A slow cooker
This isn’t essential to meal prep, but it certainly helps. If you struggle to even find one day where you can put aside a few hours to knock over your meal prep for the week, a slow cooker can be a godsend. Perfect for making stews, soups and casseroles; slow cookers allow you to chuck all the ingredients in, leave for 4-8 hours, then come back to multiple portions of a cooked meal. You can cook for the week and complete all your chores at the same time – magic!
Ready to start eating healthier and saving more time? Crack out your meal planner and start prepping!